Contents - Previous - Next

This is the old United Nations University website. Visit the new site at

10. The state and rural development 1960-85

Management of rural development
Structural causes of the crisis
Prospects for a different rural development strategy

Sidi Kane, Baba Ba and Pap Sow


On 4 April 1960. Senegal became independent. In August 1960, the short-lived Mali Federation broke up, and its remaining components - Senegal and Mali - went their separate ways. Senegal now embarked on its economic and social development alone. In the beginning, the Senegalese state had far more advantages than many other newly independent African states. Industrialization could build on foundations that were already relatively extensive, accounting for 18% of GDP, and this GDP, at the time, was higher than that of the Ivory Coast or Cameroun.

By 1983, Senegal's per capita income of US$ 440.00 was scarcely half that of those countries. 'The GDP growth rate - 2.3% - was more over the lowest of all African States not afflicted by war or civil conflicts'.1 Whatever indicators are used, and whatever sectors are analysed, the economic crisis the country is experiencing is apparent at all levels: indebtedeness, stagnation or even recession, unemployment, and so on. An assessment mission stated baldly: 'In Senegal, the crisis is now such that a priority policy is short-term adjustment of the imbalances in the balance of payments and public finances. Senegal is living beyond its means.'2

Overall, groundnut production has stagnated in recent years. As GDP and exports have risen, so the role of groundnuts seems to have been reduced. But this observation seems to be incomplete. This is because. 1) Groundnut production's share in GDP has rarely been more than 10% except between 1960 and 1966, when it was slightly above 10%. After 1967, the decline began and reached its nadir at 5% in 1971, after which it fluctuated between under 5% and over 10%. 2) The decline of groundnuts exported occurred in stages, but was continuous throughout the period 1960-84. From 80% of exports in 1961, the decline was very slow until 1967. From 1968 the fall accelerated and in 1971 groundnuts accounted for only 35% of exports. After 1971, there were good years (1972, 1976. 1977) and bad years (1978, 1980. 1981) but the downward trend continued.

The presence of Agences de Développement Rural [ADRs, Rural Development Agencies] and especially those more specifically responsible for the groundnut basin (SODEVA since 1968) has thus apparently failed to bring about any significant change in achieving the development plans' targets.

In the late 1970s there seems to have been a growing awareness of this situation. Industrialization was postponed; the Sixth Four-year Plan was one of 'recovery and consolidation'. The 1980-85 Economic and Financial Recovery Plan (PREF) and the 1985-92 Medium- and Long-term Structural Adjustment Programme (PAML) were intended to carry out this declared policy of adjustment. Consequently, the need for a New Industrial Policy (NPI) and above all,, a New Agricultural Policy (NPA) seemed inevitable.

The crisis was most manifest in the rural areas, and it was there that the state aimed to secure what was intended as a radical turnaround. During the 1960s and 1970s, the state aimed to carry out economic development itself as far as possible. In the rural areas, these years were also marked by the appearance of a whole series of Sociétés Nationales d'Economie Mixte and d'Etablissements Publics. In 1965, there was the Société d'Aménagement et d'Exploitation du Delta (SAED), in 1966, the Office National de Coopération et d'Assistance au Développement (ONCAD) and, in 1968, the Société de Développement et de Vulgarisation Agricole (SODEVA). And, during the 1970s, the parastatal sector continued to spread with the creation of other Sociétés Régionales de Développement Rural and Sociétés d'Interventions (SRDR, Sl).

The programme for the 1980s began with the dissolution of ONCAD in 1980; the Société des Terres Neuves (STN) and the Société Nationale d'Approvisionnement du Monde Rural (SONAR) were abolished in 1985, while drastic cuts were made and proposed by SODEVA, SOMIVAC and the rest.

Between the 1960s and 1980s, the state was thus proposing to carry out a sharp change of policy. The policy for the rural areas pursued since independence was thus, a quarter of a century later, challenged by the very people responsible for carrying it out.

In order to understand the reasons for this volte-face, it is important to look back at the results of the policy, to know why it led to an impasse and the need to change it. Perhaps only then will it be possible to know what is necessary in order to pursue a different policy, by setting out the outlines of the new strategy or, at least, what is no longer a viable policy. This should lead - beyond a critique of the results of policy in the rural areas, and the factors that have hindered their development- to a grasp of the structural causes, both economic and organizational, and political and social, that underlie rural development policy in order to grasp the possibilities or limitations of a different strategy.

The essential purpose is to establish, in inroad outline, the balance sheet of agriculture rural development - 25 years after independence in an attempt to identify, through the economic, social and institutional processes set in train, the context in which to set any new agricultural strategy.

This chapter examines the impasse into which rural development policy had led; the features of this impasse: effects of agriculture's economic dynamic, inefficiency and cost of institutional back-up, economic and social confiscation of rural production: and the situations and dynamics created (impoverishment of the rural areas, destruction of agrarian systems, increased indebtedness) that any new strategy must deal with.

Management of rural development

The management of rural development in Senegal from independence to the time when the objectives of disengagement were really put into effect, was above all a state matter. This was due to the position of agriculture in the country as well as by rural supervision through the state and parastatal structures for intervention The results obtained and the factors leading to them thus also involve the state's responsibility.

Situation and importance of agriculture

In 1962, agriculture occupied 87% of the total population and 74% of the economically active male population. At independence. 'The cultivation of groundnuts occupied half the population and provided the bulk of monetary incomes. With its derivatives (oils and pastes) they represented 80 to 85% of the total value of exports.'3 Today 70% of the economically active population are still employed in agriculture, and it will 'necessarily remain the principal source of employment for the majority of the population during the next 20 years.'4

The country's whole economic life still remains strongly dependent on the primary sector, as the Conseil National des Employeurs Sénégalais (CNES. National Council of Senegalese Employers) stressed in observing that the decline in industrial growth between 1976 and 1984 was indeed due to the various oil shocks but first and foremost 'to the successive "shocks" suffered by the Senegalese economy as a result of several consecutive years of drought (on average one year in two between 1977 and 1984).5 And finally to 'the deterioration of agricultural production leading to the decline of several sectors of industrial activity (oil mills, construction materials, plastics etc.) directly linked to the success of the Agricultural Policy'.6

Industrialists thus clearly recognize the importance of agriculture. Its unmistakable primacy in economic life was manifested following the droughts of 1973-74 and 1977-78. The growth of GDP reflects the strong fluctuations that correspond to those of agricultural production.

The success or failure of an economic development policy is, therefore, played out essentially on the rural development front. Consequently, immediately after independence, the government involved itself directly in promoting development in this sector setting objectives and recording results with each Four-year Plan. Rural development policy was thus the fruit of state supervision.

Rural development or rural supervision policy

From this angle, it is possible to distinguish, aside from the vagaries of the country's political life, two phases of the same strategy of state organization of the rural areas.

The 1960s: bureaucratization The main aim of this movement was the desire to put an end to the économie de traite.7 To this end administrative structures were established putting the rural areas under the state's and its ministries' wing. Thus the following structures were established in 1960:

The Animation Rurale programme (AR. Extension Service), responsible for organizing and mobilizing producers and raising their consciousness towards attaining development objectives.

The Centres d'Expansion Rurale (CER. Rural Expansion Centres), multipurpose technical teams to make possible implementation of development programmes at the district level by helping the peasants.

The Centres Régionaux pour l'Assistance au Développement (CRAD. Regional Development Assistance Centres) responsible for managing seeds, fertilizers and equipment.

The Office de Commercialisation de l'Arachide (OCA. Groundnut Marketing Board) and the Banque Nationale de Développement du Sénégal (BNDS. Senegalese National Development Bank) to manage internal and external trade and ensure the financing to facilitate breaking with the économie de traite.

The creation of the Office Nationale de Coopération et d'Assistance au Développement (ONCAD, National Office for Cooperatives and Development Assistance) in 1966 completed this movement by bringing together within it the tasks assigned to the OCA and the CRADs.

Following the establishment of these structures, in the 1960s a whole series of Sociétés Nationales d'Economie Mixte and d'Etablissements Publics were set up to replace the colonial companies.

In 1965, the Société d'Aménagement et d'Exploitation des Terres du Delta (SAED), replaced the Organisation Autonome du Delta.

The Société de Développement et de Vulgarisation Agricole (SODEVA) replaced the Société d'Assistance Technique et de Coopération in 1968.

The Société pour le Développement des Fibres et Textiles (SODEFITEX) replaced the Compagnie Française pour le Développement des Textiles.

The 1970s: strengthening supervision: The 1970s saw the development of this parastatal sector continue. Without making a proper assessment of this replacement phase, despite the failure to achieve the objectives set by the four-year plans, the state continued to set up Sociétés de Développement Rural and Sociétés d'Interventions at each regional level.

The SRDRs had the job of developing their region, notably the planning, execution and co-ordination of development activities. The Sociétés d'Interventions were responsible for given projects. During the 1970s, the rural areas were thus covered by a whole institutional network of supervisory companies formed by the ADRs of the parastatal sector: SAED, mentioned above, for the Fleuve region: SODEVA, for the groundnut basin: Société de Mise en Valeur Agricole de la Casamance for the Casamance (Lower and Middle Casamance above all) SODAGRI, Société de Développement de l'Agriculture, for the Anambé basin; Société des Terres Neuves for the agricultural settlement of eastern Senegal: SODEFITEX, for the development of cotton in Haute Casamance and the Tambacounda region; Société pour le Développement de l'Elevage dans la Zone Sylvo-pastorale (Fleuve region): Société d'Exploitation des Resources Animales du Sénégal (SERAS).

Last twist of the ADRs - food self-sufficiency: The 1960s and 1970s thus saw the establishment by government of a whole institutional network to supervise the rural areas. A more or less non-capitalist statist perspective -inaugurated by Senegal's first government (led by Mamadou Dia in 1960-62)- continued and maintained by the four-year economic and social development plans of the progressive and Third-Worldist Father Lebret can thus be seen in agricultural development policy. This more or less spontaneous form of ideology of the early days of independence seemed to imply that it was enough to set up state or parastatal structures (national sector) to replace private foreign companies and to replace expatriates by nationals to achieve the objectives of rural development.

Results of rural development policy

At the end of the Sixth Plan, an examination of the results obtained for the chief crops should provide some idea of the efficiency of the institutional supervisory network's contribution to rural development.

Groundnuts: The cultivation of this crop had developed in Senegal since 1860. It remains the dominant product of the country's economy and in 1986, a leader of the groundnut oil industry stated: 'Groundnuts will probably remain a vital product for Senegal for at least another one or two decades, unless the current situation changes drastically.' each year' groundnuts earn 60 to 70 billion Francs CFA in foreign exchange.8 Since independence, material and institutional resources have been repeatedly mobilized primarily for this crop's benefit

Nevertheless, groundnut production targets continued to vary. During the first six Plans, the target dropped from 1,350.000 to 830.000 metric tons, with an average of some 1,100,000 metric tons.9 More seriously, the out-turns themselves fell short by an average of 26%. Even reaching 750.000 metric tons each year still remains an illusion; the groundnut harvest has reached this target only seven times since 1970. If 100 is taken as the base of the target and fulfilment of the First Plan, the target fell some 13% and fulfilment 10% between the First and Sixth plans.

The presence of Agences de Développement Rural [ADRs, Rural Development Agencies] and especially those responsible more specifically for the groundnut basin. SODEVA since 1968, thus seems to have resulted in no significant change in attaining the development plans' objectives

Cereals: Even though the cereal deficit is tending to worsen, it is structural: it is inherited from the colonial policy that aimed to promote groundnut production at the expense of local cereal production, the cereal deficit having been reduced through the cheap import of Indochina's surplus of broken rice.

Visible consumption of cereals over the period 1960-85 increased by about 3% per annum, whereas population increased by about 2.5%: however, uncertainty regarding the production of millet and sorghum makes this comparison of little significance The extreme variation in harvests, and the little-known phenomena of stocking and destocking make analysis of recent trends difficult.

Whereas at the beginning of the 1960-85 period imports (rice + wheat) represented only 20% to 30% of cereal consumption, by the end of it they were nearly 50%, due to imports growing steadily by some 4% per annum' whereas local production (rice, millet, sorghum) stagnated. Only maize experienced rapid growth, but it accounts for less than 10% of consumption. The cereal deficit currently represents about 500,000 metric tons, of which almost 350.000 is for broken rice. To reduce or even eliminate this deficit, in due course, will be difficult.

The principal cereal crops will be analysed below, taking account of the available data.

Table 10.1
Cereals: domestic production and imports (selected years)
('000 metric tons)

Year Senegalese production Imports
Rice Millet Maize Rice Wheats* Total % imports
1960 41 320 20 (100) (60) (541) 30
1965 72 532 37 179 61 881 27
1970 101 623 49 119 112 1,004 23
1975 76 795 43 102 102 1,118 18
1979 83 795 47 352 123 1,400 34
1980 79 496 45 303 97 1.020 39
1981 42 545 57 353 122 1,119 42
1982 67 736 79 320 106 1,308 33
1983 62 585 82 350 114 1.193 39
1984 66 352 52 360 (110) (940) 49

* Wheats and flours.

Figures in parentheses = extrapolations, figures not available.

Source: République Française Ministère de la Coopération. Déséquilibres structurels et programmes d'ajustement au Sénégal. 1985 p 103.

Millets and sorghums: These constitute the main traditional food crops, and the success of the policy of agricultural diversification and especially that of the national target of food self-sufficiency should be evident here. The production target varies over the six Plans from 475.000 to 750.000 metric tons, with an average of 665,000 metric tons.

But fulfilments remain below targets by some 20%, with sharp falls in production each year: 795.000 metric tons in 1974-75: 621,000 in 1976-77; 590.000 in 1982-83:10 386,000 in 1983-84.

The still very low yields also show that all means are not yet being used to ensure that production reaches an optimum level. This also raises a question as to the effect of the ADRs' presence in the crop regions since the First Plan. In fact, since that Plan, its fulfilment rate of 97% has scarcely ever been reached. The average rate of increase of 2.50, or 0.62 per annum, is lower than the rate of population growth. The applies to other cereals.

Paddy rice: The production target during the six Plans was metric tons on average. The fulfilment rate was 38% lower. The average annual growth rate of 0.50% per annum also remains lower than that of the population, 2.8%.

Maize: The average production target was some 64.000 metric tons per annum. Average fulfilment still remains 27.80% below that. Annual growth of 2.20 also remains lower than total annual population growth.

Clearly, food dependence is getting worse, not better.

Cotton: Cotton is one of the few areas where the targets (which have risen from 4.000 to 52,000 metric tons) have not been underfulfilled. The Second Plan, which launched the crop, was fulfilled by 150%, and fulfilment rates have remained high, almost 90%. Cotton thus increased by some 28% from Plan to Plan, or 7% per annum, a rate higher than the annual population growth rate of 2.8%.

Is it because cotton is less dependent on the vagaries of the climate? Is there better knowledge of how to grow it? In any case, here, the presence of an ADR. SODEFITEX, goes hand in hand with good results. If part of the explanation lies there, it ought perhaps to be asked what type of supervision is needed to have a positive influence on the production targets to be attained.

Apart from cotton, agricultural production remains on average always below the targets set, particularly for the main crop, groundnuts, but the same holds for the other main food crops. Results are not only mediocre but have fluctuated wildly over the six four-year Plans.

Between the Fourth Plan and the Fifth Plan, the fulfilment rate for groundnuts varied from 89% to 50%. For cotton, a fulfilment rate of 150% was reached during the Second Plan, but for the Fifth Plan it was 75%. For millets and sorghums, it fell from 77% for the First Plan to 69% for the Third. For paddy rice, the average fulfilment rate was about 60%. For the Fourth and Fifth Plans the rate bottomed out at 40% to 43%.

The erratic fluctuations at the level of forecasting and fulfilment during the six Plans are also matched by a fall in areas cultivated, production and yields varying markedly from year to year. Between 1976-77 and 1983-84, food crops fell by 16%: the area cultivated in 1979-80 was 8% less than in 1969-70. The diminution was 20% for groundnuts. 10% for millets and sorghums and 22% for maize.

Obviously, neither the presence of the so-called traditional structures of agriculture,11 nor that of the SRDRs and the Sociétés d interventions with greater means, resulted in mastery of agricultural production. And that was equally as true at the level of forecasting targets as it was of production achieved. It remains then to identify the chief immediate obstacles.

In order to account for this inefficiency two series of factors are usually adduced. One, the area's ecosystem, natural factors such as poor rainfall droughts, and soil impoverishment and desertification. Two, technical factors are invoked, associated with the supply of the rural areas and with the attention paid to problems and needs in research.

Natural obstacles

Climatic variations, notably the very inadequate rainfall, are among the first reasons for these results falling short of forecasts. The years of drought or poor rainfall (less 700 mm) are always reflected in falls in agricultural production. Thus, in 1972-73, groundnut production was 545,000 metric tons: there was the same fall in production with the drought of 1978-79 and the poor rainfall in 1983-84: 544.000 metric tons.

Nevertheless, these fluctuations are no longer exceptional. Since 1970, rainfall has remained poor, less than 700 mm at least one year in two. One function of the supervisory network formed by the SRDRs and the agricultural research institutes should since have been to develop and disseminate short-cycle varieties as well as better exploitation of regions potentially favoured by the rainfall, such as the Casamance and western Senegal, to avoid these fluctuations and assure production.

Soil impoverishment and desertification are realities. But only in soil exhaustion and the non-replacement of the plant cover does drought and rainfall play a role. Man-derived causes are also at work: deforestation consequent upon towns' high demand for firewood, and/or extensive farming: decline of organic and mineral manure: disappearance of fallow; the extent of soil exhaustion in the groundnut basin and the beginning of the same phenomenon in the newly settled lands similarly exploited- a 'strategy based on an increased consumption of space'.12 These also are the responsibility of supervisors, who either fail to take preventive measures or worsen the situation created by natural obstacles.

Technical factors

Supplying rural areas with such factors of production as fertilizers, seeds, agricultural equipment and agricultural research might constitute one of the main ways for the supervisors, the ADRs, to reduce the problems associated with poor rainfall and soil impoverishment.

One particular role given to the SRDRs and the parastatal sector was to supply the rural areas with agricultural equipment, fertilizers and seeds: to date it seems this function has been very ill-performed. ONCAD, which had a monopoly of it from its creation, was dissolved in 1980. This co-operative bureau functioned primarily to the advantage of the big producers, and failed to fulfil its tasks of providing assistance or supplying producers with the necessary inputs at the right time; and furthermore disappeared leaving debts of 94 billion Francs CFA. SONAR, which succeeded it, also failed to fulfil its role of supplying the rural areas. It too was dissolved in 1985.

The rural areas remain underequipped and what agricultural equipment there is outdated. The average age of sowers and hoes is 17 years. The average rate of replacement is 15 years. In addition, with a halt to the Agricultural Programme in 1979, no new equipment has appeared since the 1980-81 season, except for the cotton-growing area (SODEFITEX).

Resistance to marketing fertilizers and fungicides remains stubborn although peasants are aware of their usefulness. Moreover, they use them much more on cash crops. The peripheral regions (strongly oriented to cereals) received only some 155,000 metric tons (17%) between 1961-62 and 1980-81. Over the same period the groundnut basin received 784,000 (83%) metric tons.13

Groundnut seeds increased by 11% per annum while areas own grew by only 1.5% per annum. Apart from the problem of seed varieties better suited to the poor rainfall cycle, at the technical level a problem of fraud and speculation remains to be dealt with to dry up the 9.5% of seeds put to other uses. At the financial level, cost remains worrying. The management of the state's seed stock led to a loss of earnings from the groundnut sector of the order of six or seven billion francs CFA for seeds.14

For other species, seed policy reflects neither the objectives of agricultural diversification nor the priority of food self-sufficiency. Needs for millets and sorghums were only 15% covered, for maize 4.6% and for rice 11%.

Research and rural development

Agronomic research in Senegal, the legacy of colonialism and its interests, became involved only belatedly and more slowly in crops and growing methods other than groundnuts, an export crop.

In common with other classic components of higher education and scientific research, programmes and proposals relevant from the technical and scientific point of view - agronomic rationality - are not always the most operational and practical from the point of view of local populations and conditions: the 'technological packets' offered to ensure maximization of yields are often difficult to make compatible (because they are too complicated or the economic cost or risk in the event of drought) with the minimal economic profitability of which the peasants would like to be assured. 'The theoretical bases of the "packets" proposed by research often have an exclusively agronomic rationality.'15

The problem of an effective link between research and rural development thus remains open. The Memorandum on the economic situation in Senegal states: 'For a long time the research bodies have not developed reliable and profitable technologies for rainy areas'16 but Senegalese agriculture is still based almost entirely on rain-fed crops.

It is understandable that after independence, the government wanted to manage this sector in order to ensure the success of its economic and social development plans. The nationalist perspective of the 'sums of independence' led to the replacement of colonial and foreign firms by the state and parastatal sector, private stocking agencies by Centres d'Expansion Rurale Polyvalente (Multipurpose Rural Expansion Centres)` Sociétés Rurales de Développement Rural and Sociétés d'Intervention in order to win the battle for development.

The results show that the achievement of rural development during the period was very slight: 'Since independence, the inhabitants of this Sahelian nation [Senegal], most of which is poor' rural and semi-arid, have not for the most part been able to raise either their productivity or their real income.'17

Production remained uncontrolled, subject to wide fluctuations according to rainfall or drought, and to soil impoverishment and advancing desertification. Under-equipment of the country, under-consumption of fertilizers and fungicides and non-dissemination of short-cycle varieties or operational farming techniques signalled the failure of rural development policy. After 25 years, the state was unable to ensure this development, or mitigate or contain the effects of poor rainfall or soil impoverishment -even by providing the peasants, in sufficient quantity and quality and at affordable prices, the necessary inputs to intensify and secure the harvest.

The reasons for this crisis must be sought over and beyond simply a changing concatenation of circumstances or ecological imponderables. That means locating the structural causes of the crisis of rural development policy.

Contents - Previous - Next